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Our Energy Force Ambassador Program was the country's first energy-efficiency education program taught by people with disabilities. Read below to learn more about our Energy Force team.
Oak Leyden Developmental Services
Donnell takes pride in his independence, which helps keep him focused on being a reliable ambassador. Donnell prides himself on being helpful to others and in his free time, enjoys singing in the choir, going out in his community, and building skills to do hard work.
Alex graduated from Orchard Village's Orchard Academy in 2013. He was first employed at Great Lakes Naval Base, where he quickly distinguished himself as a leader. He completed courses to become a crew leader, and worked in that capacity for over a year. Alex recently left the Naval Base and is currently employed at Buffalo Wild Wings, where he performs maintenance work. In his free time, he is an athlete with Special Olympics and plays on the basketball, softball, and track teams. He has won a number of medals for his athleticism. Alex is also exceptionally friendly and outgoing. He is always willing to help out and lend a hand to those in need. When asked about his future, he dreams of living independently and being able to support himself financially.
Theresa is 26 years old and lives in Streator with her mom, dad, and her dog, Gracie. She is an outgoing young lady with down syndrome. Her social personality helps her be comfortable in front of crowds. Theresa is a graduate from Streator High School and she attends Streator Unlimited’ s sheltered work program Monday through Friday, where they serve 42 adults with disabilities by teaching skills to live as independently as possible and become integrated in the community. Outside of work, Theresa enjoys Special Olympics, Choose to Shine Fashion Show, and Penguin Project’s theater program where she was Annie’s Miss Hannigan in Streator’s spring play. Theresa is very honored to represent Streator Unlimited as a ComEd Ambassador.
Austin Community Family Center
Richard is a seasoned, life-long resident of the Westside community. He is an outgoing, gregarious and knowledgeable person. Richard is an alumnus of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, as well as Tri-State Bible College in South Point, Ohio. Richard has extensive knowledge of venues on the west-side of Chicago and his experience is welcomed by everyone he encounters. He is married and has three children.
The Chicago Lighthouse for the Blind
Robert's entrepreneurial spirit makes him an excellent ambassador for the ComEd Energy Force Program and he also represents the Chicago Lighthouse's mission of helping people who are blind, visually impaired, have other disabilities and Veterans. His approachable demeanor and friendly personality allow for him to engage and connect with anyone looking to learn more about how they can focus on conserving the environment through energy efficiency.
Jonathan is a bright young man who aspires to be a professional basketball player someday. Jonathan graduated from Park High School in Evanston. In his free time, he plays basketball, bowls, reads, draws and volunteers at his church. He currently attends the CHOICE – Park Ridge day program with Clearbrook.
Jessica has an endless array of skills that have made her a role model for her peers through the years. She was born and raised in Chicago and graduated from Saint Gregory High School. Post-graduation, Jessica focused on exploring her talents through a position as an usher at Wrigley Field. In 2007, Jessica joined the Misericordia family by moving into the Shannon Apartment Home. Her many talents were quickly recognized when she began working in various areas on campus. The Ceramics Room paints and creates projects that are sold throughout the city, and the Recycling Center takes electronics apart before recycling to ensure everything is handled properly. Lastly, Jessica has worked as a valued member of the White Sox Fan Force by greeting fans as they enter the park, and answering any questions they may have. Jessica appreciates and utilizes the various programs offered to her at Misericordia. Jessica’s skills and talents are endless!
Jessica is very active in programs both at Misericordia and within the Chicago community. She enjoys utilizing her reading skills by reading at Mass once a month and is involved in several Special Olympics Sports. She competes in Basketball, Volleyball and Track and Field throughout the Chicagoland area. She also participates in the Special Olympics annual art calendar each year. Throughout the past few years, Jessica has also been actively involved in the Best Buddies Program. The Best Buddies Program has enriched Jessica’s life by offering her the opportunity to become an Ambassador, which helped her dedicate time to honing in on her ability to speak in front of others about the Best Buddies program. Jessica has been an ambassador with the ComEd Energy Force since the beginning and is thrilled to continue to be part of the team. She enjoys using the skills she currently possesses, as well as acquiring additional skills and experience, to make the program as successful as possible. She loves the opportunity to meet new people and share tips on how to save energy!
Helping Hand Center
Sarah is an energetic, outgoing person that enjoys giving back to her community in various ways, including fundraising for different causes. Sarah believes in personal growth and is consistently challenging herself to learn new tasks.
David is a constant student of art. He captures daily life of the world around him in an effortless painterly style, using color and bold brushstrokes to create movement for each piece. David doesn’t let his disability stop him from training and making a living as an artist. He uses local coffee shops and the streets of Chicago as his classroom. David was inspired to start drawing and painting by his mom and brother at a young age and was encouraged by teachers to hone his skills. David sometimes collects his sketches into multi-paned stories and books, featuring characters who find themselves in difficult situations. He observes and records how they react, learn and reflect on their challenges.
Regional Access Mobilization Project
Amber was born in Rockford and moved to Stillman Valley in the 7th grade. She has two younger brothers and a cat named Oreo. She is currently engaged to her fiancé, whom she met while singing karaoke. She was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy type 2 at 4 years old, but to this day is very independent and thrilled to be working with ComEd as an ambassador.
Park Lawn Services
Andy is a Park Lawn participant. Andy is known for his pleasant disposition, outgoing personality, love of Chicago's sports teams, and his ability to create tasty treats in the kitchen. He enjoys spending his free time with family and friends; shooting pool, singing Karaoke, attending concerts, and playing bags. If you call Park Lawn's Vocational Services, you may have the pleasure of being greeted by Andy, who works as an office assistant at the reception desk.
of Andy responsibilities is to serve as a tour guide for visitors to Park
Lawn. Recently, Andy completed a three month temporary position at
an insurance company.
In addition to having multiple experiences working in the community
and in various capacities at Park Lawn, Andy has shown an interest
and passion for giving back to the community thorough his work with
Park Lawn’s GIVE program, a volunteer service group. Along with the
other members of the group, Andy helps
to identify the needs of others, complete service projects that make the
world a better place, and demonstrate that individuals with
disabilities are valuable contributing members of their communities.
Andy excels and rises to meet challenges. Andy does not let his
disability define, limit or determine his abilities. Always eager to
engage in new experiences, Andy welcomes the opportunity to share
energy efficiency tips with the community through this partnership
Steven is an outgoing young man who enjoys interacting with others and learning new things. He gets along well with others, always has a smile on his face! His hobbies include playing board and video games, watching movies and playing basketball.
Special Olympics Illinois
Lisa is a seven-sport athlete with Special Olympics Illinois. She lives in Evanston with her husband Kurt, who is also a Special Olympics athlete. They train together through Evanston Special Recreation, and enjoy a wide range of activities, including all that Chicago has to offer like ball games, concerts and festivals. She also served as an ambassador for the 50th Anniversary of Special Olympics in Chicago in the summer of 2018 and provided voiceover talent for a nationwide commercial produced by one of Special Olympics' largest sponsors. Lisa has overcome tremendous physical challenges, many surgeries, and autism spectrum disorder to achieve great things in life and with Special Olympics. She now brings that same determination and enthusiasm to her role as a ComEd Energy Force Ambassador.
Shore Community Services
Kevin is a graduate of Maine East High School and also attended a non-degree Liberal Arts program at Oakton Community college for 4 years. Kevin's work history includes Warehouse Fulfillment at Opportunity Medical, where he also served as a member of the Safety Committee, Front Desk Reception at Oakton Community College, and Packaging and Assembly work at Shore Koenig Training Center. Kevin practices energy saving solutions at home such as using energy efficient light bulbs, keeping lights on a timer, timing the thermostat, and recycling.
Kevin has experience speaking with groups from his
volunteer work at Mather Pavilion in Evanston. He has been
volunteering with the Activity Department since 2009 providing
assistance with the Language Exchange Program, arts and crafts,
discussions, escorting residents from floor to floor, and various other
activities. Kevin also participates in M-NASR events and activities. He
is currently in an exercise group that meets twice a week and Out and
About, where he attends monthly events in the community. Recently,
Kevin was a member of the Self-Advocacy group where he handed out
brochures at the Morton Grove Park District, educating residents
about special rec. Kevin is also a past recipient of the PI/VI (Physical
Impairment/Visual Impairment) Participant of the Year award.
Brian is a lifelong resident of Tinley Park who graduated with honors with a BA in geography in 2014. Through his academic course work, volunteer experience and participation in environmental clubs, Brian has knowledge of environmental issues and is highly interested in conservation. Also, Brian enjoys attending sports game and follows Chicago professional sports teams with a strong passion. Brian enjoys traveling with his family and spending time with his two dogs.
Cristian is a graduate of Gage Park High School and has been with El Valor since 2010. One of the first big trips Cristian signed up for was the annual weeklong trip to Camp Confidence in Brainard, Minnesota in August 2011. He went camping with a group of friends and Coach Cruz in which he was able to truly experience wilderness activities.
Since coming to El Valor Cristian has made many new friends and has
been exposed to many new opportunities. He has joined the Special
Olympics Team and participated in his first Winter Sports in 2011 and
won a gold medal in the snow shoeing event. He is involved at this
time with the Cubs Care baseball league. He is part of the Eagles
team. Cristian is also participating in 100 meter relay team and
swimming. He will be participating this June for the Summer Special
Olympics games to compete as a gold medal winner.
Some of the other program activities Cristian has signed up for
include cooking, safety, sign language classes and Relationship
Building research project in which he is training to be a peer mentor.
In my interview with Cristian during high school he was pretty quiet
and focused on home work. During his time at El Valor Cristian
continues to share his peer mentoring skills which have allowed him
to become a team leader. He enjoys taking on challenges and
volunteers in many of the activities.
In the cooking class he has learned to prepare meals that he can do on
his own to take care of himself when he gets a job. He is also taking on
a leadership role in the sign language class. The reason he joined was
to help him communicate with others that are non-verbal. He enjoys
this new experience and assisted in the Winter Celebration by sitting
in the front and supported the group as they signed and sang their
Cristian is a leader with many talents. With him learning sign
language he didn’t realize that he is trilingual, English, Spanish and
now signing which not too many individuals can do. These skills will
assist him in his role as ComEd Ambassador.
GiGi's Playhouse Down Syndrome Awareness Center
Kathryn graduated from Waubonsie Valley High School in 2010 with an academic diploma and completed a 2-year certification program at Technical Center of DuPage in Data Entry. While in school Kathryn participated in Special Olympics for several years and holds multiple gold, silver and bronze medals. Since 2010 Kathryn has served as a board member at Gigi’s Playhouse Fox Valley, a center that serves families and children who have Down syndrome. She has served as the board secretary and her current role is that of an outreach ambassador. Kathryn is a role model and inspiration to the families and younger people with Down syndrome. In addition to her volunteer time at Gigi’s Playhouse Kathryn is employed at the Aurora Public Library where she is works as a Page and a Materials Aide. Kathryn has done several public speaking engagements. She is an excellent communicator with a high level of self-confidence.
Daniel was born premature and was diagnosed at a young age with learning disabilities and a severe language disorder. He is now an award-winning columnist covering special needs stories. Daniel is the founder of Special Chronicles, a pioneering nonprofit new media network that gives respect and voice to people with special needs. Daniel is also involved as an athlete and global messenger with Special Olympics Illinois. In December 2012, Daniel graduated from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. Daniel received first place for "Best Original Column" in the 2016 Illinois Press Association. Daniel was named among 10 other advocates, a national finalist for the American Association of People with Disabilities 2015 Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award. He was the recipient of the 2012 Les H. Brownlee Scholarship from the Chicago Headline Club. Daniel was also the recipient of the 2012 Matthew Freeman Award for Social Justice from Roosevelt University for his continuing efforts via media and reporting to give people with disabilities a voice.
Through his work as a Podcaster, Blogger, award-winning Journalist, Public Speaker, Multimedia specialist, radio show host, and Award-winning Special Olympics athlete, he enjoys spreading the message to respect and give voice to others, like himself, who were diagnosed with the "disability" label.
Daniel’s Press Appearances included the Daily Herald, Chicago
Sun-Times, CBS-2 Chicago, and ABC-7 Chicago Eyewitness news.
Easter Seals Chicago
Maurice has beaten the odds. A young man living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has achieved his college degree and a job. For many with autism spectrum disorder, such achievements are beyond reach. Maurice, however, exhibits milder effects of the complex neurological disorder. Despite that advantage, Maurice's future was uncertain for most of his childhood. Before his first birthday, his parents, Jennifer and Willie, noticed a change.
“He had been a happy baby,” Jennifer says. “Then he stopped talking
and making sounds. He just stopped.”
For years Maurice was nonverbal, and no one had an answer until, at
age six, he was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The Snells
soon had many more questions. An immediate concern was how best to
help their son succeed in school. When Maurice was seven, they visited
what today is the Easter Seals Autism Therapeutic School. It’s a place
where students with autism spectrum disorder, ages 3 to 22 receive
not only an education, but also speech, language and communication
therapy, occupational therapy, social work services, health related
services, recreational services, and more.
“We walked in and knew it was right,” Jennifer says. “That’s when
Maurice just took off. We could see a change in him the first week.”
During Maurice’s 10 years at the school, a team of professionals helped
him develop his speech, language and communication skills, and his
social skills. He learned to swim and play baseball, and competed in
the Special Olympics. And his parents were active in a growing
support group of parents.
“Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago really became part of our family,”
Jennifer says. “Maurice was so happy to be there. He loved it.”
Unlike many of his peers with autism spectrum disorder, Maurice has
strong cognitive skills, which make it easier for him to learn. With the
foundation Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago provided, by his
sophomore year, he was able to transfer to the public high school
where his mother taught. He thrived there, graduating 13th in his
class and earning a 3.8 grade point average.
In May 2006, Maurice was “emotional and ecstatic” to receive his
bachelor’s degree from Saint Xavier University in Chicago, with a
major in Liberal Studies and minors in Spanish and Concert Band.
Maurice has said his dream would be to work for Easter Seals. That
dream came true when he was hired to be a classroom aide and
mentor at his former school. Since 2007, Maurice has worked as
Administrative Assistant at Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago’s
Autism Therapeutic School and Center for Autism Research. In Late
April of 2013, Maurice became the Development Coordinator for
Easter Seals Metropolitan Chicago in the Central Office after working
for many years as Administrative Assistant at Easter Seals Autism
Gateway to Learning
Melissa is a young adult who has been part of the program at Gateway to Learning for almost 1 year. Melissa is very energetic, hard-working, creative and has a good sense of humor. She is looking forward to travelling through the city and meeting new people and seeing new places. Melissa grew up in Chicago and has lived here her whole life. Her family is also very important to her – she has brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.
UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago
Danny is a participant at UCP Seguin. He graduated from Morton West High School and currently does work at the Mooney's Car Wash operated by UCP Seguin to build his talents. He has been an asset to the organization and loves technology. He is fascinated by the inner working of things especially electronics and cars. He says he loves to work around people. He is forward-thinking and has excellent verbal communication skills and takes instructions well. He enjoys the phrase, "Work smarter, not harder" and uses his iPhone Siri frequently for tasks. To his credit, he built his own computer from used parts from other computers. He says his computer has ''no name" because it is a combination of various components from different manufacturers. Because of his curiosity, he likes to use the internet to find how things work and therefore says "YouTube teaches me how to take things apart and put them together".
Special Olympics Chicago
Lucas is a lifelong resident of Chicago. He graduated from Solorio Academy in 2014. He has worked and volunteered for the Chicago Park District for the past 6 summers as a Junior Counselor and enjoys helping young children. Lucas loves sports and is a huge fan of the Chicago teams - especially the Cubs and Bulls. He enjoys watching games and keeping track of scores. Lucas has participated in Special Olympics for the past 2 years and has recently become an Ambassador for Special Olympics. He also loves playing with his dog and talking to and interacting with people everywhere.
Best Buddies Illinois
Dana is a lifelong Chicagoland resident, who grew up in the Oak Park school district and currently resides in a group home near Oak Park. Dana is known for her work ethic and vibrant personality. Dana has been involved in Best Buddies Programs since Middle School and now not only volunteers for the organization, but also commutes to work in the Chicago office twice a week as a Programs Assistant for Best Buddies Illinois. Dana is also a strong self-advocate, and a member of the Best Buddies Ambassador Program. She has spoken at numerous schools in the Chicagoland area as well as at various State Fundraisers for the Illinois office. Dana is an inspiration to others and she is looking forward to growing in another community leadership role with ComEd.
Octavia is 27 years old and has partial vision, despite being legally blind since birth. She is a bright, cheerful person who is outgoing, talkative and friendly. She is a high school graduate as well as a graduate of the Illinois School for the Visually Impaired and possesses a solid foundation of skills with computers and adaptive devices. She has very good navigation skills and regularly travels to stores and restaurants in her neighborhood. Originally from the south side of Chicago, she has lived at Friedman Place for about six years. She has learned a great deal about working with the public and engages well with event participants in providing energy saving tips.
Northwestern Illinois Center for Independent Living (NICIL)
Xavier is a lifelong resident of Sterling Illinois, located in northwestern Illinois.
Xavier has been faced with many challenges in his life but has overcome many of those challenges because of his strong work ethic. Xavier began volunteering for Goodwill Industries his junior year in high school in October 2012 and was hired on in February 2013 as a Donations Associate where he continues to work part-time. Xavier loves his job and enjoys providing a high level of customer service.
Xavier began attending Sauk Valley Community College in fall 2014. He continues to attend college part-time, working towards an Associate’s degree. Xavier enjoys school and has become very proficient at writing papers. Xavier also volunteers at NICIL once a week answering phones and greeting visitors as they arrive.Xavier is a member of the Ambassadors Club which is funded by the Bi-County Cooperative Foundation. The Ambassadors Club is a group of young adults with disabilities that meet socially to work together as a team to give back to their community. Xavier is also active in Special Olympics and has had the privilege of attending State competition several times.Xavier has a positive attitude and a million-dollar smile! It is this attitude and tremendous work ethic that will help him accomplish all his hopes and dreams. In the future, Xavier plans to live independently with the support of his family and NICIL services.